Sr. Thea Bowman Catholic School Community Responds to Syrian Refugees

Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School decided to step away from the traditional activities of Catholic Schools Week this year to participate in a program offered by the National Catholic Educational Association and Catholic Relief Services.

The school is supported by the diocesan appeal and received $82,640 from The Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2016.

The theme was Syrian Refugee Children. Young people at the school were able to make a connection to youngsters in a war-torn country like Syria to find out what children who have become refugees must face on a daily basis.

Sister Thea Bowman is one of 14 entities that receives money from The Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal. In 2016, the school was allocated $82,640.
Like any other school, it offers an education to young people, and it also evangelizes its students and teaches them about the Catholic faith.

The school focused on refugees with morning and afternoon prayers for the safety and health of Syrian children, Social Studies lessons were geared to learning about Syria and the issues that have forced many families to flee for their lives.

In religion classes, the students wrote their own prayers, and learned about the many refugee families in the Bible, including Joseph, Mary and Jesus when they fled to Egypt.

Sr. Cecilia Hellmann, ASC, gave a presentation to each class revolving around three stories about refugees: The first was about Alex, who wrote a letter to President Obama asking if Omran Daqneesh, the 5-year-old airstrike victim from Aleppo, could come to live with him.

The second story was the story of the Good Samaritan, and the third was about a Syrian refugee family in St. Louis that was supported by an ASC fund drive.
Sister Cecilia asked students first to “see” those in need around them, and then secondly to “act” with kindness. Students collected six boxes of toiletries for the Syrian refugee families of the International Institute of St. Louis. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in a six-station pilgrimage to learn facts about refugee children and said a special prayer at each station.

At the end of the week, the entire school participated in a Votive Mass for refugees, lighting a candle for each million refugees that have fled Syria.
After the Mass, the 6th-8th-graders participated in a refugee simulation that had nine stations.

Each student received an identification card and a family or travel group of four-six people. They each selected a set number of items to put in their “travel bag.” During the trip, they lost or had to barter away possessions to be able to continue their journey to safety. Some were injured or lost in the precarious travel methods they were forced to use.

During reflection, the students said they now have a greater understanding of the hard life the refugees had trying to flee war, and then trying to travel to a safe country.

“The program was a great way to celebrate the true spirit of our Catholic schools,” principal Dan Nickerson, said. “We stood in solidarity with the Syrian refugee children, learning about them through daily prayer for them, and through empathy as we better understood the plight of our brothers and sisters around the world.”